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The classic poems of First World War, popular poems of the time, lesser known poets and a wealth of background material.

Illustrations include contemporary photographs.

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Anthology of First World War poetry recommended for students and the general reader.

Illustrations include contemporary photographs.

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Poems by Soldiers

and other members of the armed services

See also the Afghanistan page.

Poems on this page

Danny Martin:
Haddock of Mass Destruction

Robert Johns:
Combat Medic

Geoff Disley:
A Fleeting thought at Action Stations

B J Lewis:
The Mask

I serve
Last day of R&R
The Fallen Kindly Wait
Looking Forward



Poems reflecting on time in Iraq
by Danny Martin

Danny Martin's introduction

I am an ex soldier currently in the third year of an English and Creative Writing degree course in Liverpool. I was in the army for just under seven years, leaving in early 2006. I completed two tours of Iraq, totalling one year over there. Most of my poems are based around my experiences during my second tour (TELIC 6 in 2005), when I was serving as team signaller on a Tactical Air Control Party, mainly based around Maysaan province.
The following are a few poems that I have written over the past two years.

November 2008.


Haddock of Mass Destruction 

Brain bored and arse numb
Finally the blades spun and we lifted
Skimmed the palm trees and popped flares above the Euphrates
We swooped low over the target truck
Then landed in its path

We charged in our Storm Trooper costumes
Blinding faceless shapes through dirty glass
With rifle mounted lasers
We were jumpy
We were ready

I dragged the driver from his seat
Slammed his face into hot tarmac
Held it there with my suede boot
Steadied my hands long enough to cuff his

We searched his packed pick-up
Boxes stacked four deep five wide
Emptied in the dust on the roadside
The first box revealed ice and fish, and the next
And the next, and the last

Intelligence had said he was armed and dangerous
Armed with melting ice and defrosting cod
No match for our guns, our bombs,
Our good intentions, our morals
Our God

We cut his cuffs, and his wife’s
And left them to their ruined stock
I should demand commission
From the Taliban
For every recruit I’ve converted to their flock.

Danny Martin



My thanks to Hollywood
When you showed me John Rambo
Stitching up his arm with no anaesthetic
And giving them “a war they won’t believe”
I knew then my calling, the job for me

Thanks also to the recruitment adverts
For showing me soldiers whizzing around on skis
And for sending sergeants to our school
To tell us of the laughs, the great food, the pay
The camaraderie

I am, dear taxpayer, forever in your debt
You paid for my all-inclusive pilgrimage
One year basking in the Garden of Eden
(I haven’t quite left yet)

Thanks to Mum and thanks to Dad
Fuck it,
Thanks to every parent
Flushing with pride for their brave young lads
Buying young siblings toy guns and toy tanks
Waiting at the airport
Waving their flags

Day One, Thud!

My first attack; a mortar
I put on my lid and jacket (to protect from flak)
And crawled under my bed

Day Two

              Day Three

                              Day Four

                                                Thud Thud Thud 

Day Thirty, Thud!
Helmets are sweaty
Body armour ruins the tan
So I stretched out, relaxed
Turned up my ipod

Day Forty, Thud Thud Thud
This time a drum
Beating the slow-marched steps
Of coffin bearers

Day Forty One, Thud!
I should really sweep under this bed

Danny Martin

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Do away with medals
Poppies and remembrance parades
Those boys were brave, we know
But look where it got them

Reduced to line after perfect line
Of white stones
Immobile, but glorious, exciting
To kids who haven’t yet learned
That bullets don’t make little red holes

They rip and smash and gouge
And drag the world’s dirt behind them
Remember lads, you won’t get laid
No matter how good your war stories

If you’re dead
So melt down the medals
Fuel the fire with paper poppies, war books and Arnie films
Stop playing the pipes, stop banging the drums
And stop writing fucking poems about it.

Danny Martin



Do you lose sleep from the knowledge you’re sending them?
At the thought of those lives, and your part in ending them?
Beam a grin at us as you taste a school dinner
You sinner
Do you taste bile from the truths and your selfish bend on them?

Stern faced, wear your poppy, lay your wreath
The voters love all that, don’t risk offending them

War was fun for a while
Now things are fucked, and you won’t be mending them

I returned from the lions’ den
Some places friends went, I’m glad I’m not yet joining them

Danny Martin


Poem by Combat Medic Robert Johns

Robert Johns introduces his poem

I retired from the army in 2000, after 24yrs service,as an anaesthetic technician in the RAMC.
I served in the Falklands,& the 1991 Gulf War with various field hospitals. I was also a POW during the 1991 Gulf War & was dreadfully abused by my captors.

Since retiring from the army, I have been employed as an assistant coroner near where I live.

To this day I still suffer from the physical,& mental injuries acquired during these two conflicts.

Robert Johns, DCM.LLB. SRN. MIOT.

Combat Medic

I am a combat medic,
I serve to help the wounded,
Whatever your colour,race,or creed,
I carry neither bomb or bullet.

With an aid kit on my back,
An armband on my sleeve,
I race across the battlefield,
Bringing help unto the needy.

Through shot, shell, and rifle fire,
I care for every wounded soul,
I tend and toil from dawn to dusk,
And then I toil some more.

After the battle has been fought,
The soldiers have all gone home,
Spare a thought for the combat medic
Who is long time dead and gone.

Robert Johns
Copyright  R. Johns 2003.


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Poem by Geoff Disley

Geoff Disley's introduction

I recently went through my papers from my time in the RN and came across a poem that I wrote during the First Gulf war, inspired by looking at a photograph of my wife and daughter.

I served as Chief Shipwright on HMS London during that conflict and wrote the words down during a lull at action stations.


A Fleeting thought at Action Stations

A radiant smile greets my gaze
through the early morning haze.
Eyes blink, first one, then two
as I catch a glimpse of you.
Your face I’ve seen oft times before
Sometimes in slumber, or from the door
of a dimly lit cabin with cluttered floor.
Boots lie waiting, laces undone,
Coveralls poised for the morning run.
I turn to look and whisper goodbye.
Is that a tear I see in your eye?
Excitement passes and heartbeats slow
and slowly adrenaline ceases to flow
A look of calm and relief I see
as once again you smile at me.

G D Disley

20 January 1991



War poems by B J Lewis


War poetry is something that I've become interested in over the last year, deployed to Basra for a large part of 2008 I found myself with pen in hand. With the encouragement of Mac Macdonald and others at the FLOW website I continued to write now and again throughout my tour of duty.


Get a grip! I’m expected to succeed,
face fear, be strong, and take the lead,
not hesitate in thought or deed.
My mask must never slip.

Man up! and keep my thoughts inside
No one can know how much I cried
when the rockets came and the fear arrived.
My mask must never slip.

Crack on! theres no time to reflect
or admit that I did genuflect
and prayed to God, me to protect.
My mask must never slip.

Chin up! Worry not ‘bout how I feel
never let them know just how surreal
it was. Dark thoughts I cant reveal.
My mask must never slip.

B J Lewis


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Another familiar day turns to night,
another day closer to the homeward bound flight.
Servicemen move around, each lost in own thoughts,
some dressed for battle, some wear nothing but shorts.


The siren wails with its chilling sound,
like puppets, strings cut, we all drop to the ground.
Face down in the dirt with racing pulse
we wait with the hope that the warning is false.
Alas no, too soon comes a distant thud
and with it a tremor that’s felt through the mud.
More impacts rumble as we struggle to hear
if the next round to land will be anywhere near.
Throughout the attack the siren screams;
a relentless echo that will haunt my dreams.
Time stops. The ground rises with an ear-splitting crack,
senses reel, eyes tight shut, everything black.
Its okay, it was close, but this time we’re safe
The rockets fell short, relief comes in a wave.
Hands shake. Alarms silence. Quietness descends.
Alone now, just waiting for the stillness to end.
The All Clear is sounded, we rise from the floor
and return to the normal routine of before.



Deep sense of foreboding, an irrational dread,
they’ll be coming tonight as I lay in my bed.
There’s no logic or reason for thinking it’s so

yet convinced I remain, it will happen. I know.
Like so often before I stay prone in the gloom,
restless, considering my foresight of doom.
As the hours crawl by, more frustrated I get
at my self-induced worry, I’ve not been right yet.
I lament my own foolishness, but the feeling won’t shake
and I know now that sleep will not come ‘til day break.

B J Lewis



No matter how much frustration there is,
fear, trepidation, anxiety or unease.
Despite all the hardship. Adversity aside,
as long as I wear uniform I endure all with pride.
For service and loyalty are what matter to me,
honour, courage, respect and integrity
are the armour I wear to counter all foe
and give me strength when into harm’s way I go.
I depend on my comrades, and defend them I must,
for in turn they depend on me keeping the trust.
Together we shall overcome the toughest of test,
our resolve will not waiver as we all give our best.

B J Lewis


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The ball’s started rolling, I’ve turned on the tap,
I tried really hard not to as I have to go back.
The worst thing I could do was let my thoughts dwell
and consider the feelings I have for that hell.
But linger I have, let emotions come fore,
now re-check them I must, as I head back to war.
This time has been precious, a much needed pause,
but now box up the sentiment, re-lock the doors.
Head down and stay focussed, clear thinking apply,
re-cage those emotions with another goodbye.

B J Lewis



Should I expire on foreign soil
mourn for me you must not.
First recall all else who fell
lest they be forgot.

I’ll weep for those I leave behind
but don’t you weep for me
for I’ll have joined my brethren
and be in good company.


In service of their country
all of their dues were paid
but there are empty ranks to fill
on the grand final parade.

If God wills that I should join them
I will accept my fate.
But I’d rather God delay awhile,
as the fallen kindly wait.

B J Lewis



Keen to survive the last attack,
don’t want my name etched on a plaque:
“in memory of those who fell in Iraq”
I don’t want a coffin to carry me back.

Go home to all those that I hold dear.
Relax, and enjoy having nothing to fear.
Forget all the hardship and hold loved ones near;
look forwards, not back, with a conscience that’s clear.

Take pride in the knowledge that I did my best,
wear a shiny new medal upon my chest.
Restart my life with new vigour and zest,
thank the good fortune that kept me blessed.

But for those still out here I’ll not forget,
that it’s you here, not I, I owe you a debt,
I know what you’ll go through, the challenges set,
I wish you good luck with my utmost respect.

B J Lewis


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